Upcycling an Old Ladder-back Chair Into a Playful Garden Picnic Seat

The old garden shed

In the cobwebs of the old shed are various neglected and salvaged items hoping for regeneration one day. There is an old broken footstool I used to love and keep thinking I’ll fix and recover, a tumble of ceramic tile bins awaiting a mosaic renewal, some miscellaneous wood scraps and old doors, an aged upright piano long out-of-tune. Occasionally we try to clean it up, but no matter what we do, it seems to keep devolving into dark and dusty chaos. I don’t know about ghosts, but certainly there are residents there of the rodent variety as there is much evidence of their lifestyle.

So once in awhile, I bravely venture inside to unearth something to splash love, soap and paint on. On a recent journey thus, I came back into the sunlight with a very dejected ladder-back chair whose seat was a mere fray of remnant caning.

Upcycled ladder-back chair with seat made of fabric strips
Upcycled ladder-back chair with seat woven with fabric strips

OK, disclaimer: I’ve never done any caning. 🙂 But I have painted a lot of furniture. (This is the variety of painting that usually started on a canvas, but felt constrained there and ended up on walls and furniture.)

A previously painted chair that I had done up in whimsical colors turned out to be desirable to some young grandchildren who came to picnic in the garden, so I thought why not do a second one so that there is a chair for each?

After cleaning (sterilizing!) the chair, I did some light sanding and then painted with some artist paints that I have on hand. This is one of my favorite anti-depressant things to do (besides gardening).

Upcycled furniture: ladder-back chair with fabric strips for caning

I found a terrific video from a very skilled caning artist. However, for this chair I wanted something more playful than traditional rush caning, so I tried weaving the seat with lengths of fabric scraps, with ends sewn or tied together. I purposely left the fabric edges raw. The guy in the video gave excellent instructions — even so I made a few mistakes along the way. Happily, it still came out OK and the seat is very sturdy and comfortable. I’m looking forward to the end of shelter-in-place so the chair can be part of the next (socially-distanced) garden picnic with the joyful young people.

If you try this, please send a photo. I’d love to see!

Happy gardening and creating! I hope your 2021 garden will be filled with exuberant life.

Garden Picnic | digital art by lisa at the-compulsive-gardener.com
Garden Picnic | digital art by lisa at the-compulsive-gardener.com

Post-note: In case it isn’t obvious, these chairs live indoors when not called to picnic duty outdoors. 😉

4 thoughts on “Upcycling an Old Ladder-back Chair Into a Playful Garden Picnic Seat

  1. I do love the idea of upcycling and I love garden furniture so your chair was a great success in my eyes. You just need some sunshine and warmth for its debut sitting. Amelia

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